Voices from Russia

Monday, 17 December 2012

Youhanna Yazigi Elected New Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch and all the East

00 Patriarch Youhanna Yazigi of Antioch. 17.12.12


Syria’s state-run news agency says Youhanna Yazigi was elected as the First Hierarch of the Damascus-based Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch and all the East. He replaces Patriarch Ignatius Hazim, who died earlier this month. Youhanna, 57, is from the Syrian city of Latakia, where he established the city’s first Christian music school. He has training as a civil engineer. It’s estimated that the Church has over a million adherents in Syria and neighbouring Lebanon. Youhanna’s predecessor split his time between the two countries.

17 December 2012

Associated Press

As quoted in the Seattle Times



On Monday, Patriarch Youhanna Yazigi was elected as successor to the late Greek Orthodox Patriarch Ignatius Hazim, who died earlier this month. The election came during a closed meeting of 18 bishops at Balamand Monastery, some 85 kilometres (53 miles) north of Beirut. Speaking following his appointment, Youhanna said that he’d do his best to keep on serving the Church and asked the Lord to give him strength in doing so.

Ignatius, who was born in the Syrian town of Mhardeh, in Hama Governorate, passed away 5 December at the age of 92 in a Beirut hospital, a day after suffering a stroke. Youhanna, 57, hails from Latakia in Syria, where he pursued studies in civil engineering. Throughout his studies, John had a pivotal role in establishing several spiritual programmes and trained choirs in Byzantine music. In 1978, Youhanna earned a bachelor’s degree in theology from the Institute of St John Damascus Faculty of Theology at the University of Balamand. Then, he earned a doctorate in theology in 1983 from the University of Thessaloniki in Greece. Youhanna became a deacon in 1979 and a priest in 1983. In 1981, he took up teaching liturgy at the St John Damascus Faculty of Theology at Balamand University where he had previously studied, assuming the position of dean of the faculty from 1988-1991 and 2001-2005. He became the superior of the Balamand Monastery from 2001 to 2005. In 2008, he became the Antiochian Metropolitan of Western and Central Europe.

17 December 2012

The Daily Star: Lebanon News



Sunday, 16 December 2012

Challenges in Syria and Lebanon Await Next Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch

00 Syrian Christian Girls Easter


Confronting the challenges facing Syrian and Lebanese Christians will top the agenda of the new Greek Orthodox patriarch, who’ll be elected this month to succeed Patriarch Ignatius Hazim. At least 18 bishops from Antiochian Greek Orthodox dioceses around the world will meet at Balamand Monastery near Tripoli before Christmas to elect a new head for the Church. According to officials familiar with the meetings taking place between the bishops, the unrest in Syria, its negative repercussions on the Syrian Christian community, and plans on how to face the current crisis, would carry significant weight during the talks. Metropolitan Saba Esper of the southern Syrian regions of Bosra-Houran, Jabal al-Arab, and the Golan was elected as patriarchal locum tenens at a meeting last week devoted exclusively to the organisation of a patriarchal election.

At his residence in Rabieh, Metropolitan Archbishop Antonio Chedraoui Tannous of Mexico and Central America told The Daily Star, “No doubt, there are great difficulties in Syria today. What happened in Lebanon during the Civil War is taking place in Syria. The new patriarch will be elected soon and the new patriarch will lead the Christmas celebrations”. Chedraoui said that all bishops were aware of the present challenges and the difficulties facing Christians in the Middle East, stating, “All the bishops are ready to face these challenges in the proper way”. Chedraoui, 80, has been Mexico’s bishop for the past 46 years; he said that he had no intention to leave the Americas and become patriarch, noting, “The Mexicans are part of my life. The diocese I serve is part of my life and leaving them isn’t easy, but I’m a soldier in the Church. If the Church’s decision is to appoint me as patriarch, then, I have to abide by the decision. What’s important for us is the interests of our religion, the interests of the Church, and the difficulties the region is going through”.

Officials said that many favour Saba, a Syrian, to succeed Ignatius, who was laid to rest in Damascus earlier this week after serving 33 years as the Church’s First Hierarch. Nineteen bishops from Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Brazil, Mexico, Australia, and Europe will meet in Balamand Monastery to elect the new patriarch. Each will nominate three bishops to succeed Ignatius. In the second round of voting, the patriarch will be elected from amongst the three bishops who receive the highest number of votes from the first round. The contest is mainly between two groups of candidates… Saba and George Khodr of Mount Lebanon on one side, and Damaskinos Mansour of Brazil and Boulos Yazigi of Aleppo on the other. However, according to one official, the electors could reach a compromise by choosing another bishop as patriarch. Metropolitan Archbishop Philip Saliba of North America, who won’t take part in the election for health reasons or Mexico’s Chedraoui could be elected as a compromise measure.

Meanwhile, in Beirut, a group of Greek Orthodox Lebanese issued an open letter to the next patriarch, calling on him to tackle the serious dangers facing the community in the country. The Orthodox Gathering called on the church’s next patriarch to develop a framework that would allow the patriarchate’s religious and lay figures to share decision-making, stating, “There are clear imbalances in the relation between religious and lay persons … Fixing these imbalances requires active participation from both sides to make us one body under one church”. The statement added that the patriarchate was about to enter a dangerous phase that could affect the future of many Greek Orthodox Lebanese.

Chedraoui said, “Patriarch Ignatius succeeded in bringing peace into the Church after all the disputes and disagreements … He united everyone in one person”. The bishop added that the Church would continue its productive mission despite Ignatius’s passing, observing, “He’ll certainly be missed, we’re all affected, but the Church isn’t dependent on one person; all the bishops form one family. History has shown that a patriarch’s death doesn’t mean the end of the Church’s continuity”. Asked about the fate of Syrian Christians after the collapse of the embattled Syrian régime, Chedraoui said that the Christian presence is in decline in the entire region, not just in any particular country, saying, “Look at Jerusalem, how many Christians are still in Jerusalem? Look at Iraq, how many Christians have left Iraq in the past decade? The Christian presence is in decline in the entire region, and that’s why we need to remain in our lands and not give up on them … This happens by bringing the Church and the people closer to each other. We came from the East, so, we need to preserve our presence whatever the costs are”. Criticising those who use violence in the name of religion, Chedraoui said, “Those who hate have no religion. I’ve said before, and I say it again, we should be religious because being religious ensures love and forgiveness, not hatred and sectarianism, as some claim. Religion can’t be used for destruction or murder, but only for building love and unity”.

14 December 2012

Van Meguerditchian

The Daily Star (Lebanon News)


Friday, 7 December 2012

Patriarchal Locum Tenens Appointed in Antioch

00 patriarch ignatius hazim of antioch. 04.12.12


On Friday, the Holy Synod of the Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch and all the East elected Metropolitan Saba Esper of Bosra as patriarchal locum tenens, after the death of Patriarch Ignatius Hazim. The election came during a Synod meeting at Balamand Monastery, some 85 kilometres (53 miles) north of Beirut. Ignatius, who was born in the Syrian town of Mhardeh in Hama Governorate, died Wednesday at a Beirut hospital, a day after suffering a stroke. He was 92. He served as the First Hierarch of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and all the East for 33 years. A Pannikhida for Ignatius will be Sunday at 12.00 at St Nicolas Church in Achrafieh. His body will be flown to his native village for burial. Prime Minister Najib Mikati announced that Sunday would be an official day of mourning for the patriarch’s death. Lebanese leaders described Ignatius’ death as a loss for Lebanon and the region; they praised his role as a religious leader who believed in the principle of coexistence.

7 December 2012

The Daily Star: Lebanon News


Thursday, 6 December 2012

Patriarch Ignatius Hazim of the Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch and all the East Dies in Beirut

00 Patriarch Ignatius Hazim of Antioch and all the East. 06.12.12


On Wednesday, Patriarch Ignatius Hazim, the long-time leader of the second-largest Christian church in the Middle East and the oldest in the world, died in Beirut after suffering a stroke earlier this week. The death of Ignatius comes just months after Pope Shenouda, the head of the largest Christian church in the Middle East, Egypt’s Coptic Church, died in March after having led the church’s eight million members for 40 years. His successor, Tawadros II, 60, was elected in a conclave in Cairo on 4 November.

Ignatius’ death comes at a particularly trying time for Orthodox Christians in Syria, who are the world’s oldest Christian communion, as the now 15-month old civil war threatens to destabilise a peaceful relationship the Church has had with Syrian rulers since the 14th century. Lebanon‘s Deputy Parliament Speaker Farid Makari said in a statement, “The Orthodox community lost a historic great man who led his people with great wisdom in a difficult phase of the region’s history. Fortunately, we assure him that his community will be fine… and that its role will remain one that is primarily aimed at building a new democratic Syria and in strengthening stability in Lebanon and nation-building”.

Saad Hariri, Lebanon’s former prime minister, said, “Lebanese lost a great national and spiritual pillar, as they look forward for the Greek Orthodox Church to remain a source of giving and love, which can remain loyal to its heritage in the Arab world”. Until recently, Ignatius had been active, visiting the USA in October, presiding over ecclesiastical meetings, and leading worship services.

Ignatius was born in the village of Mhardeh, in Hama Governorate in Syria, and at age 16, he moved to Beirut, where he took monastic vows. After graduating from the American University of Beirut, he studied theology at St Sergius Theological Institute in Paris. He became a bishop when he was 41, and on 2 July 1979, he became patriarch. Globally the Eastern Orthodox Church, of which the Antiochian Church is one part, has about 300 million members, making it the second-largest Christian communion after the Roman Catholic Church.

5 December 2012

Mike Obel

International Business Times



The Patriarchate of Antioch and all the East announced that on Wednesday, Greek Orthodox Patriarch Ignatius Hazim of Syria died in neighbouring Lebanon at the age of 92 after a stroke. The Damascus-based patriarchate confirmed to AFP that Ignatius, who was born on 28 August 1921, “died (on Wednesday morning) at St George Hospital in Beirut after a stroke”. The Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and all the East is one of 14 autocephalous churches under the Orthodox communion. It counts around a million members, the majority of them Christians in Syria. The country’s 1.8-million-strong Christian community has stayed on the sidelines of the nearly 21-month conflict against the régime of President Bashar al-Assad. Lebanon, which has a large Greek Orthodox community, declared the patriarch’s funeral a national day of mourning, although the date hasn’t yet been specified.

Ignatius graduated in philosophy from the American University of Beirut in 1945, and went on to study theology in France in 1949. On returning to Lebanon, he founded the University of Balamand, in the north of the Mediterranean country. He received episcopal ordination in 1962, and became Antioch’s 157th patriarch on 2 July 1979. In March 2012, a year on from the outbreak of a popular revolt against Assad, the pro-régime Syrian newspaper Al-Watan quoted Ignatius as warning against any foreign intervention in Syria, saying it’d be bad for “both Christians and Muslims”.

On Wednesday, The Syrian National Council, one of the country’s main opposition coalitions, issued a statement offering its condolences over the death of Patriarch Ignatius, saying, “He played an exceptional role in national and public life, in Syria and in all countries of the East”. SNC chief George Sabra, himself a Christian, said in a statement, “All Syrians boast that this Church has always been one of the key supporters of public action in Syria… making efforts to consolidate values of freedom, sovereignty and the national unity of the Syrian people”. The SNC added that Ignatius died “at a time when the country is steeped in terrible suffering because of the regime’s criminal practices, acts of destruction… and the death of tens of thousands” of Syrians. More than 41,000 people have been killed in violence in Syria since the outbreak of a revolt against Assad in March 2011, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

5 December 2012


As quoted in the Khaleej Times



Greek Orthodox Patriarch Ignatius Hazim of Syria died in neighbouring Lebanon at the age of 92. Syria’s state news agency, Sana, reported that Patriarch Ignatius died in Beirut’s St George Hospital University Medical Centre on Wednesday after suffering a stroke. His remains would be brought from Lebanon to Syria for burial, it added. Ignatius led the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and all the East, the largest Arab Christian Church in the Middle East, since 1979. There are believed to be about a million members, the majority of whom are Syrians. The Church is one of 14 autocephalous (ecclesiastically independent) Eastern Orthodox patriarchates, third in honorific rank after the Local Churches of Constantinople and Alexandria. Since the 14th Century, the patriarch has resided in Damascus.

Patriarch Ignatius was born in 1920 in the village of Mhardeh, near Hama. In 1961, he was ordained Bishop of Palmyra, in central Syria. Nine years later, he became Metropolitan of Latakia, on the Mediterranean coast. Syria’s minority Christian community hasn’t joined the revolt against President Bashar al-Assad. Many Christians are fearful for their future if the country’s majority Sunni Muslim community chooses an Islamist leadership to replace decades of secular rule.

5 December 2012




His Beatitude Patriarch Ignatius Hazim, First Hierarch of the Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch and all the East, has died. He was 91 and had been ailing for some time. In the past year, he challenged fellow Christians and Muslims to end the civil war. The patriarch was famous in Lebanon and Syria for his pastoral work among young Orthodox. In recent months, he had made several appeals for peace in Syria, devastated by civil war between Bashar al-Assad’s army and the rebel Free Syrian Army. Local sources remembered his ceaseless work to stop the slaughter, along with Catholic prelates and Muslim leaders. In one of his appeal, he said, “A countless number of Arab Muslims and Christians, men, women and children, fall victims of bombs every day. Hospitals are full of injured people”. As Arabs of Syria, “regardless of our religion, we have the right to live in peace in our country. [. . .] We invite all Syrians in the name of the one true God, to decide to live together in our blessed home. We hope that all international organisations help us to ensure peace, stability, and reconciliation”.

The patriarch was born in 1920 in the village of Mhardeh, in Hama Governorate in Syria. In 1936, he moved to Beirut, where he became an altar server in a local parish. In 1945, he graduated from the American University of Beirut, and from 1949 to 1953, he studied at the St Sergius Theological Institute in Paris. On his return to Lebanon, he was ordained a hieromonk. In 1942, he became one of the founders of the influential Orthodox Youth Movement in Lebanon and Syria, which has done much to renew youth participation in Church life. After returning from France in 1953, His Beatitude became one of the organisers of Syndesmos, the worldwide Brotherhood of Orthodox Youth. In 1961, he was ordained Bishop of Palmyra and patriarchal vicar. In 1970, the future patriarch became Metropolitan of Latakia (Laodicea). Nine years later, On 8 July 1979, the Hoy Synod elected him the First Hierarch of the Church of Antioch. During his life, Ignatius published many books and articles on theology. For this, the Sorbonne and the University of Minsk (Belarus) awarded him honorary doctorates.

5 December 2012




On Wednesday, Lebanese political and religious leaders lamented the death of Greek Orthodox Patriarch Ignatius Hazim as a great loss for Lebanon and the Arab world, praising him as “a man of moderation, dialogue, and reconciliation” who defended Muslim-Christian coexistence. Ignatius died at a Beirut hospital Wednesday morning, a day after suffering a stroke. He was 92. Hazim, who served as Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch and all the East for 33 years, was admitted to St George Hospital University Medical Centre in Achrafieh Tuesday with cerebral failure. Soon after news of Ignatius’ death spread, churches in the northern region of Koura tolled their bells as Lebanese officials, including Lebanese President Michel Sleiman, visited St Nicolas Church in Beirut to offer condolences. On Thursday, the Patriarchate will name its locum tenens. According to a statement released by the Patriarchate, a Pannikhida for Ignatius will be at noon Sunday at St Nicolas Church in Achrafieh before the transportation of his body to the Mariamite Cathedral in Damascus. Ignatius’ funeral will be at the Mariamite Cathedral at 14.00 Monday, after which his burial will be at the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate’s cemetery in Damascus.

Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati issued instructions declaring the day of the funeral as a national day of mourning. Sleiman said in a statement that Ignatius’ death was “a loss not only for his sect, but also for Lebanon and Arabs, given his wisdom, courage, and repeated calls for dialogue”. He later visited St Nicholas Church to offer condolences, writing in the golden condolences book, “With Ignatius’ death, a glorious page of the life of a man of faith, dialogue, and knowledge has been turned”.

Mikati said Ignatius’ death was “a great loss” not only for the Greek Orthodox Church, but also for all of the Lebanese, Arabs, and Eastern churches. Describing Ignatius as an example to be followed in spiritual, humanitarian, and social work, Mikati said in a statement released by his office, “With the passing of Patriarch Ignatius, Lebanon and the Arab world lost a man of moderation and reconciliation, who always believed in dialogue amongst all sects, religions, and civilisations as well as in [sectarian] coexistence, away from fanaticism and isolation”. Mikati, who is currently in Italy, also praised Ignatius’ role in defending Arab causes, particularly, the cause of the Palestinians and their right to an independent state with Jerusalem as its capital, saying that his struggle for this issue made him deserve the title of “Patriarch of the Arabs”.

Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri lauded Ignatius as a man who called for inter-Lebanese dialogue, safeguarding unity and renouncing violence. Hariri said in a statement released by his office, “With the loss of Patriarch Ignatius, Lebanese lost a great, national, and spiritual pillar. They look forward to the Greek Orthodox Church to remain a source of giving and love, to be faithful to its heritage in this Arab East”.

The head of the Future Movement said Hazim confronted several challenges in Lebanon and the region with “solid stances that safeguarded the values of [sectarian] coexistence, moderation, and openness”. Former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, head of the Future parliamentary bloc, said with Ignatius’ death, Lebanon and the Arab world lost “a major pillar of moderation and wisdom”. Siniora went on to say in a statement, “Patriarch Ignatius was a keystone of openness and coexistence in Lebanon and the Arab world. He was also a fundamental sponsor and guarantor of [inter-Lebanese] reconciliation. His stances were based on reason; he sought calm and stability, he was committed to Arab and Lebanese interests”.

Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai offered condolences over Ignatius’ death, saying in a telegram that the late patriarch had led his church with “much enthusiasm, dedication, and wisdom”. Grand Mufti Sheikh Mohammad Rashid Qabbani expressed deep regret over Ignatius’ death, saying the late patriarch was “one of the great religious and Arab symbols in Lebanon and the world”, describing Ignatius as “a man of moderation, openness, dialogue, love, and coexistence between Muslims and Christians”. Qabbani called on Beirut Metropolitan Greek Orthodox Archbishop Elias Audi to offer condolences. Sheikh Abdel-Amir Qabalan, deputy head of the Higher Shiite Council, and Druze spiritual leader Sheikh Naim Hasan also called on Audi to offer their condolences. Deputy Parliament Speaker Farid Makari described Ignatius as “a great man” who led the Greek Orthodox community through a difficult time in the region. He said Ignatius had always called for unity and dialogue and was a “resounding voice of freedom”.

Born in the village of Mhardeh in Hama Governorate in Syria in 1921, Ignatius was part of an Arab Orthodox family. After finishing school in Hama, Syria, he moved to Beirut where he studied literature and started serving the Orthodox Church in Lebanon. Ignatius founded the University of Balamand in Lebanon, which he then served for many years as dean. In 1971, he became Orthodox Metropolitan of the Syrian city of Latakia. He became Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch and all the East in 1979.

6 December 2012

Dana Khraiche

Hussein Dakroub

The Daily Star: Lebanon News


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